DIY Hand Poked Tattooing

Ryan (iam:Archetype), who you may remember from his triple wrist microdermals I featured earlier, did some simple hand-poked DIY tattooing on himself using a three-round and black tattoo ink.

I’m probably going to continue on doing it until it’s a perfect outline, maybe make it a bit thicker but I do have some hope that when I can get a hold of some more needles I’ll continue to do some more of my own tattooing on my leg and maybe make a piece out of it and ‘call it my own’. I’m glad I did it and it was a learning experience for myself and for my body.

All of my first tattoos (which are now almost twenty years old — how strange that is) were hand poked on myself, using a needle and India Ink. It’s true, they’re not the best tattoos, and some might argue that they’re close to the worst… but the experience of doing them myself and changing my body on my own was very valuable to me and I still treasure them.


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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

33 thoughts on “DIY Hand Poked Tattooing

  1. Dylan,
    You’re right, it was a personal experience and something I’m glad I did and it pushed things a little further in my world for me which has made me happier – as I said to Shannon I would really like to do an entire leg myself but I’m afraid I’d have to get a tattoo machine but I really don’t have the cash for that sort of thing.

  2. Archetype – I have been doing exactly the same thing myself. It’s quite a fun experience handpoking your body. :-)

  3. How was it the first time you did it? I found it quite pleasurable – more so than a tattoo… although the deeper pokes did hurt from time to time :P

  4. I wasn’t pushing deep enough to start with and tried a few dots to see how they took. They practically disappeared after a month. I then tried going in at an angle which allowed me to go deeper and was less painful and those dots/lines are still there.

    I tried some magnums too and they worked quite well if you enter the skin at an angle and you can control shading with them.

    Oddly enough I also did a star but on my left wrist and held the skin behind the wrist tight with bullclips. Seeing this entry now makes me want to do more. Ideally I will do a chin tattoo by handpoking in a mirror.

  5. You want to go in at more of a straight-on angle. Otherwise you’re putting the ink into multiple other layers of the area of skin where the ink is supposed to go. ie the ink will bleed out and fade/blur. Or thats what John tells me.

  6. i think self done tattoos can have alot of meaning for the person doing them, this makes me want to submit mine :),even though it is about six years old and a bit off center, it has alot of symbolism

  7. I’ve never tried doing a DIY Hand Poked Tattoo on myself, but I must admit that I’m somewhat tempted to give it a go now. I love the whole personal approach to doing your own DIY body mods. A hand poked tattoo sounds very in touch with your own body and a very intimate experience to go through.

    I will certainly give it some further thought.

    Thanks Shannon for posting this and thanks Ryan for sharing…

  8. #8.
    Not a problem, I hope this encourages people to get more in touch with their bodies and their modifications.

    I’ll let you know how I get on with the next ones :)

  9. I don’t see how this isn’t considered scratching. I understand the empowerment of modifying oneself; however, what’s to stop this person (or any other “DIYers”) to do it to their friends? And their friends’ friends? Have these people taken courses on bloodborne pathogens? Do they understand the risks and ramifications of Hep C, AIDS, and MRSA? Have they spent years of their life pouring their soul into an apprenticeship to learn the art of tattooing, and how to do it safely? I really don’t see how a “DIYer” is any better than a scratcher. If I am missing something, feel free to let me know.

  10. my third tattoo was also a DIY with india ink. such a calming artistic(ish) experience. mine is just a simple spiral on my knee about the size of a quarter, but it has more meaning than my other 2 tattoos have. I’d encurage everyone to try this, but you know be safe and sterile and all that too.

  11. #11 – Hand poking is a technique to tattoo the skin which has been around since before tattoo machines were ever created.

    “Some cultures create tattooed marks by hand-tapping the ink into the skin using sharpened sticks or animal bones or, in modern times, needles. Traditional Japanese tattoos (irezumi) are still “hand-poked,” that is, the ink is inserted beneath the skin using non-electrical, hand-made and hand held tools with needles of sharpened bamboo or steel.”

    And that is why it has nothing to do with ‘scratching’. What’s to say I wasn’t completely sterile, ktm? Ofcourse other than the fact you can see a pre-soldered 3-round needle which came pre-packaged pre sterilised and that I used proper tattoo ink, which is just simply high quality sterilised pigment.

    So thats 2 out of 4 sterile – I simply had to wash my hands with savlon antiseptic, then wipe them thoroughly with medical-grade alcohol-based sterile wipes.

    Same goes for the area I was tattooing aswell, and the ink caps.

    ktm, you are definitely missing something… you’re too caught up in this world where you need a certificate to do this and a certificate to do that.

  12. I had to split this into two, sorry.

    Finally, scratching would be dragging the needle across my skin, causing it to bleed – to get the ink into the dermis I would have to ‘rub’ it into the wound (this method is also common, quite to in scarification and the rubbing of a loved one’s ashes in the wound to unify you with their spirit) to get it into the dermis, but you have a higher chance of bleeding out – first few pokes you need to understand your depth, it shouldn’t be painful and for me I knew that when i put the needle in and took it out you could hear it leave (a sort of shallow ‘pop’)

    Go buy some sterile needles, some tattoo ink, some sterile wipes, sterile marking pen (medical grade) and tattoo your own body before you comment on the risks of doing this, because you havn’t experienced the risks.

  13. Archetype: “Scratching” refers to tattoos done by untrained individuals who do not have any intention of learning tattooing the proper way. And that prepackaged needle – how do you know it was sterile? Do you know where it was between the sterilization process where it was made, and when it arrived at your door? Who’s to say it didn’t come into contact with raw chicken meat on the way? And yes, handpoked tattoos were indeed a cultural ritual before modern times… however, those individuals did not have to worry about diseases like Hep C, AIDS, and MRSA. The fact that you think this is a safe practice and that you seem sure you did everything right only shows how little you know about tattooing. Believe it or not, apprenticeships and certifications exist for a reason – a primary one being to keep the artist and customer SAFE. I do not need to buy needles, ink and “sterile wipes and marking pens” to do my own tattoos. I’ve been an apprentice for a year and am still learning the RIGHT way – and have not tattooed anybody yet, because I still am learning. BTW – supplies that are readily available to people who do not work in a legitimate studio tend to be sub-par. Did you even check the needle for imperfections before you used it? I would guess not. I encourage you to think about what you are doing and the consequences it could have.

  14. Get over yourself ‘Mr. I’m a tattoo apprentice’. Not everyone has an apprenticeship readily available, and I’ve seen in a lot of places that before your ‘master’ will let you tattoo anyone else you must first tattoo yourself, which is an agreeable rule. I wanted something personal, and I ‘Did It Myself’ which brings it on to another level of personal. I never said I wanted to be a tattoo artist, I never said I wanted to tattoo anyone else. I just want to be abled to put ink into a body in a way that makes me happy.
    Please remember the golden rule ‘If you havn’t got anything nice to say don’t say anything at all’.

    Back then when hand poking was ritualistic etc they never knew about these diseases, they were poking with unsterile objects, when people died then it was just deemed natural and their tattoos were finally a part of them and some cultures used tattoo’s as a sort of ‘guide’ in the spirit world for anyone trying to find their loved ones after they pass away.

    Somewhere you have lost what one of the most fundamental aspects of what this site is supposed to be for – learning and furthering oneself.

  15. I am learning and furthering myself – in an environment will I will learn best and NOT hurt others. As for Thumper’s little quote there – does that mean I’m not allowed to have an opinion? If I have an opinion, should I not share it? Seems to me you are not trying to learn or further yourself at all – you are looking for a shortcut to do what you want to do, regardless of the consequences. In fact, it seems as though you are adamantly AGAINST learning. But hey, if you want to get an infection or slip into the very tempting world of “hey you did a good job on yourself with that, why don’t you do one on me?” then go right ahead. If you want to hurt yourself or others and face the consequences (which unfortunately could be quite severe), you go right ahead. After all, it’s all in the name of “DIY” and “highly personal experiences.”

  16. Straight from the TOS.

    “You agree not to ridicule other members. Stick to the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” rule — or, to use another idiom, “live and let live”. That is, it’s not OK to send a person a message along the lines of “your tattoos suck” or writing on your page about it. Are you here to have a positive experience, or are you here to fight — it is your choice after all. That said, if your choice damages someone else’s experience here, it may be your last choice here.”

    You’re ‘damaging my experience’. Go away troll.

  17. ktm – Please explain to me how doing DIY tattooing on oneself puts one at risk of Hep C or other diseases? In terms of disease transmission, DIY mods are much much safer than even going to the cleanest of studios.

    And in any case, I think you’re completely missing the point.

  18. I’m not ridiculing you. I’m just stating my complete disagreement with your practices, and pointing out the dangers. If you just do yourself, chances are you won’t catch any diseases – however, you’re still quite likely to get an infection. But if you do it on yourself, chances are that you’ll do it on someone else at some point down the road, and that’s where those diseases come into play. You are a scratcher, regardless of what the TOS says. You became a scratcher the day you decided to “DIY.” Scratchers are a disgrace to the tattooing industry, and I don’t think this sort of thing should be promoted on a site that claims to care about the industry.

  19. ktm – I don’t know if you’re trolling, or just really full of yourself because you’re excited about being an apprentice, but pretty much everything you’ve said is ridiculous and shows that you don’t fundamentally understand why people choose to modify themselves…

    …and THAT is a big problem if you want this to be your career.

  20. I’m neither trolling nor full of myself. Whether or not I fundamentally understand why people choose to modify themselves has no bearing on whether such practices are safe. I do not have to applaud and encourage scratchers to follow this career path, and I’m sure you’d be hard pressed to find an experienced, reputable professional that does. I’m sorry that my opinions violate your terms of service. I just don’t believe it’s good for people to read this article and start saying THEY should start doing it to (as many already have). How many of those will go on to scratch on others? And how many of those victims will contract infections or diseases? Who’s to say? How is this right?

  21. Saying that people who do DIY mods go on to become “scratchers” or otherwise do home mods on others makes about as much sense as saying that pot is a gateway drug.

  22. They are scratchers the moment they “DIY.” I’m not saying they absolutely WILL do it to others; what I am saying is that most will likely not be able to resist temptation (especially since they would probably feel they’d have nothing to lose by it). And you saying that “DIY” is okay because they WON’T do it to others makes just about as much sense as saying that drunk driving doesn’t lead to car accidents.

  23. I think defining scratchers as people who DIY and then to others (DItO) is a misconcept. It would be better to define scratchers as people who do not have the skill to make tattoos in the quality liked by the person tattooed (artistically, technically and hygienically). Commercial artist or DItO both can be scratchers. Sure, many DItO’s are scratchers, trying to get quick money without serious training and investments, but not all of them. Some people actually prefer to be tattooed non-commercially and that is certainly not always because it is cheaper. In fact, I’ve made tattoos on friends who actually prefered to travel a long way to me rather than to be tattooed commercially closer to home, and they’d overload me with presents in return. People have begged me to do it, often for very personal reasons. They are really pleased by their tattoos and the conditions under which they were made, and the idea that someone they know personally did it out of passion, not just to make money.

    I stopped doing it, because it is quite costly to keep good hygienic practice, I cannot find sufficient time anymore to really be involved in the process. But the whole thing had been very dear to me and I do miss the personal sides of it.

    Please do get me right: I don’t like scratchers according to my definitions, and I also do think that there are very good and friendly tattooers around, working with passion, and who more than deserve to earn their money with it.

  24. ktm – Until you confirm where you’re working, I’m going to assume that you’re lying about working at a studio because you’re so incredibly clueless about this community. It’s completely asinine and unsupported to suggest that people who do DIY mods generally go on to become scratchers.

  25. I’m glad to see I’m backed up on this. Thank you, Shannon.

    dutchweirdo – i understand what you’re saying and I agree with your points, you’ve provided a very good argument but i still don’t agree with the term ‘scratcher’. It’s so… I don’t know but the word doesn’t feel very nice to the person. At least in the sense that ktm used it.

  26. I’ve got no reason to prove where I work. Nothing I have said is false. Nothing Archetype said proves he is not a scratcher. And Dutchweirdo – scratching cannot be defined only by quality of work. It defines an UNTRAINED INDIVIDUAL tattooing himself or others, which Archetype (and Shannon for that matter) clearly falls under. I feel very ashamed that I used to enjoy BME, but it seems that it has turned into a contest of who can get the nastiest infection first. I now understand why Shannon would only preach the importance of finding a reputable shop by warning against aesthetically unpleasing tattoos, rather than unsafe tattoos as well. I must get going now – I’ve got some tonsils that are bothering me. Perhaps I should buy a scalpel off of eBay and perform a little DIY on ‘em, eh? That wouldn’t be unsafe at all, right? Feel free to delete my account if you feel I am threatening your happy bubble world of BME; I’ve no desire to continue commenting when it’s clear nobody quite has the seems to have the sense to understand what I am saying. Oh and Dutchoven – a scratcher’s passion does not save his victims from infections and diseases. MRSA doesn’t care how much passion you have; it’ll still kill you.

  27. Archetype: I agree, I like the word scratcher only for work that is scratch…
    ktm: I think you completely miss the point of how interesting the experience of self-tattooiing is. Infections are a risk that can be avoided by using proper equipment. Indeed, people who practice it should know about that or made aware of it and if they aren’t they should not be tempted to try. However, I am (and many others) are educated to know how to work sterile, in a much broader context than only tattooing or body modification. I never ever have encountered any infections by tattooiing. Surgery is quite a different story.

  28. ktm, i’ll be sure to let the next tribe member i meet (of one of the various cultures who still do traditional tattoo work) know that he is a a scratcher and a disgrace to tattooing…

    lol, get over yourself.

  29. KTM… stop arguing your ridiculous point, Ryan chose to give himself a DIY tattoo, and im sure he researched it, and got advice from people who actually do Tattoo for a living.

    Anyone who does a DIY mod doesnt instantly become a scratcher, and as ryan is pretty passionate about his body modification i know he wouldnt do that. DIY mods are a much more personal experiance than most tattoo’s, it isnt just about the end result, it is about the whole process. For someone who wants to work in the modification industry, you dont seem to have a strong understanding of the reasons people modify their mody.

  30. i also would say that pokejob-ing yourself is very amazing. i have three, and like them more than the 6 i did with a homemade gun.

    com. off convo, did you pierce your own wrist? what/how did you?

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